My Mom’s Group has been studying the book of Matthew for the past several weeks. (Only 14 more to go…Sorry, I’m afraid you’re going to keep hearing about it.)
One of the things I love most about my study group is the depth of these women. I think it’s easy to forget how bright and insightful other moms can be because when we get together with our kids running around us, our brains turn to kiddy mush and we can’t seem to talk about anything but sleep patterns and social development and the never ending breastfeeding saga that is our lives.
That’s why I believe in childcare. And that’s why our church is incredibly generous to offer it freely during our small group. Suddenly, when children stop crying and sweet breads are placed in front of us, we’re new women. With brains! And senses of humor! And actual life stories!
So I never get tired of meeting with these women (and eating Nancy’s homemade pumpkin cake. Nancy, that’s a hint.). Yesterday was no exception. As we sat together and read Matthew 7, discussing the final portion of Christ’s paradigm shifting Sermon on the Mount, we came to The Golden Rule. We all know it, whether we’re churchgoers or not. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is not a new teaching. In fact, several religions have the same type of moral code written into their scriptures. What I learned yesterday, though, was that Jesus was the only teacher who put the idea into positive language. Every other religious teaching where this is found says it in its negative light: Basically, “don’t do to someone what you wouldn’t want done to you.”
What Christ’s positive spin gives us is something that points directly back to the verses immediately preceding The Golden Rule. In that passage, Jesus describes God as a father who knows how to give good gifts to his son: “Who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?”
As we discussed this, my friend Priscilla said something that may profoundly effect how I see The Golden Rule from now on. She said it was finally clicking for her what Jesus meant (two chapters earlier in Matthew) when he instructed his followers to “turn the other cheek.” She said, “All of the sudden, I’m reading this as a mother, who knows how to give good gifts to her child.” She went on to explain that when she reads that no sensible father is going to withhold a fish (a food served daily in Jesus’ culture) from his hungry child and instead give him a venomous snake, she understands. It’s the same reason that the other day when her two-year-old hit her in frustration, she didn’t hit him back. Of course she wouldn’t. She knows what she’s doing in his life. She wants him to learn not to hit. She wants him to be his best, to be wonderful.
For her this sudden understanding pointed directly toward The Golden Rule. When Jesus asks us to do to others what we would want for ourselves, he’s asking for something far deeper than, “don’t beat somebody up and don’t smash their car with a hammer” (not my real life example!), he’s asking us to see the people in our lives with the eyes of a parent, to want them to be wonderful.
Or, as Nancy reminded us, our church loves the word: Flourish. To want others to flourish.
That means when we’re mistreated, cut off in traffic, the subject of gossip, the office scapegoat, our job is not to passively brace ourselves for more slapping (as we often often read Matthew 5:39). It means we strive and long for the flourishing of those who mistreat us. It’s not passive. It’s active, just as my not kicking August back when his legs protest getting his diaper changed, is not passive. I’m actively teaching him, engaging with him, longing for him to learn how to live in this world as the man I hope he will be.
And so, when I do to others what I’d have them do to me, I hope what I’m doing is engaging, loving, and longing for every person I encounter (even the meanest and slowest of drivers!) to be their most wonderful.